Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rocketman (2019)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures, New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures

Rocketman – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Synopsis: A look at the life of musical icon Elton John from his first moments playing the piano as a youngster, to an international best selling superstar, and all the partying and drunken shenanigans that ensued…

Review: When two films about two icons of British music come out within a year of each other, comparisons between these two films are pretty much inevitable, especially since they share a director (kind of). However, while the first of these films ultimately chose to play things very safe with its source material about the life of its subject, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. For Rocketman, and the life of its subject, Elton Hercules John, this is decidedly not the case.

The film covers quite the broad spectrum, but it mainly initially on Elton’s younger years, back when he was known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight. As a rather timid child being held back by his not-so-supporting parents. Until when given some helpful supporting nudges, he gets a spot at a prestigious music school and that leads him down the path of becoming a very eccentric entertainer. From there he meets lyricist Bernie Taupin (Bell) and together with Bernie providing the lyrics and Elton providing the vocals, they become an effective and cohesive team committed on the journey to super-stardom.

Dress down Fridays definitely didn’t catch on…

Every so often, there is a casting choice that just feels absolutely perfect, and for Taron Egerton as Elton John, this is one of those instances. In what may be his best performance of his career so far, Egerton goes all out with just about every aspect of the role. The bright and wacky costumes, the mannerisms of the great man himself and, yes he does all of his own singing. With just about every facet of this performance, he captures the drama that he has in his life with his romances and the hard and intense party lifestyle that he leads in his younger years, without sugar-coating any of it, not least the relationships he has, most notably with Richard Madden’s John Reid. The friendship between Elton and Bernie is very heartfelt, and Bell brings a level of sincerity to his performance, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mum Sheila couldn’t have been more perfect.

Dexter Fletcher, who came into to complete Bohemian Rhapsody after the original director was fired, shows that he has got a real knack for these musical biopics. While he didn’t get the credit for BoRhap, this is completely his own movie, and with that he brings a great deal of visual flair to the film. There’s no jaw-dropping sequence like the Live Aid scene in BoRhap, but that doesn’t stop the musical numbers in Rocketman are entertaining and very unique in their own right. With the script from Lee Hall, Fletcher chooses to mesh the intense drama with some musical numbers that are interspersed throughout the film. Given that the life of someone in a business like this has its ups and downs, these can feel a little jarring at first, given how the film has moments in it which are really quite melancholic.

The film strives to avoid those familiar tropes of the musical biopic genre, but despite its best efforts, it does revert to some of these. Yet while Bohemian Rhapsody was a very safe, and (sometimes inaccurate) version of the man it was portraying, Rocketman is anything but by-the-numbers. There are some aspects of Elton’s life that are covered, but in such a fleeting manner that could have done with a bit more development. It’s above all else, a reminder that while such a career can be extremely rewarding, there are some dangerous pitfalls that can happen to anyone, no matter how rich, or famous, or popular they may be.

Visually striking and with a marvellous performance from Egerton, Rocketman blasts off but doesn’t quite stick the landing due to a tonally unevenly told story.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Image is property of Universal, Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum, B. D. Wong

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: Years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, with the island’s volcano about to explode, a rescue operation is launched to save the island’s dinosaur population from almost certain extinction…

Review: There is a seemingly undying fascination that humanity as a species has with dinosaurs. With museums that boast fascinating old skeletons of these creatures to a series of films that began all the way back in 1993 with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, a film that changed the movie industry forever as for the first time on the big screen, dinosaurs came to life. Though the 1997 and 2001 sequels never quite lived up to the majesty of the original, the fascination never died. Indeed, when Jurassic World came along in 2015 to try and reintroduce the franchise to a new generation, the box office roared accordingly, to the tune of $1.6 billion, and so this franchise finds a way to keep on going.

With the Jurassic World theme park having met a predictable fate, following some disastrous dino-experimentation, the dinosaurs that are still on Isla Nublar are in immediate danger due to the island’s volcano which is threatening to erupt. So Claire (Howard) re-teams with Owen (Pratt) to mount a rescue operation to save the pre-historic beasts. However, there is the question of whether these creatures should be saved, or should nature just take its course? With Colin Trevorrow now solely on writing credits along with Derek Connolly, in comes The Impossible director J.A.Bayona who injects some of his disaster movie expertise into the film. In doing so, providing some especially haunting shots of the now desolate park and one scene in particular that is especially melancholic.

Hold on to your butts, and run for your life!

Bayona does his best to replicate the visual majesty of the original, and while topping that is an almost impossible task, he does bring some really stellar action scenes to the mix. Yet the script could easily have done with having some of the DNA of the first film injected into it, as there is a severe lack of development on many of the humans. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard once again both give solid performances as our two main characters, but the development their characters is very limited. It is a similar story for those that are in the supporting roles, as they’re just not as memorable as say a John Hammond or Ian Malcolm. Speaking of, the Goldblum makes a welcome return, but his appearance is fleeting at best.

With Bayona bringing the visual splendour, Trevorrow and Connolly’s script doesn’t quite match up to that. The plot certainly goes in a very interesting direction, and it is very much a tale of two halves. One being the mission to the island, and the other being that mission’s aftermath. Plaudits must be given for them for trying something a bit different, but having said that, it is hard to ignore the similarities that this film has with its predecessors, and there are specific elements that you will look at think that you have seen this before, because we have.

What is cooked up by Bayona and Trevorrow delivers both what a sequel should do, but in other cases should not do. There is a much stronger attempt to bring a more coherent narrative to the story, which does bring more spectacle and emotion. What’s more, Bayona’s horror routes really shine through in a number of places. Yet the lack of development on many of the characters and the rehash of familiar plot elements is a massive frustration as we have seen franchises in the past take things in a brand new direction before. Blending classic Jurassic franchise tropes with some new elements, almost like trying to cook up the perfect dinosaur. The results are not catastrophic, but definitely nothing extraordinary.

The addition of Bayona as director provides some visual majesty that Spielberg would be proud of, but a tonally inconsistent script results in a dinosaur romp that will entertain, terrify and bemuse in equal measure.  

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World (2015)

jurassic-world-own-raptors-poster
Image is property of Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Jurassic World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Synopsis: In order to boost falling attraction numbers at the dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, the company creates a new dinosaur, with disastrous consequences…

Review: Sometimes in Hollywood you do wonder if, or indeed when a movie will ever make it to the big screen and escape the doldrums of development hell. Sometimes they don’t but sometimes, films emerge triumphant after a lengthy period of production nightmares. For instance, take the latest entry into the franchise of dinosaur themed mayhem, otherwise known as Jurassic Park. Originally intended for a 2005 release, and thus descending into nearly a decade of the aforementioned development hell. Through all of that though, the final product was completed and it has emerged into a roaring triumph.

Like a dinosaur trapped into an enclosure that has broken free, Jurassic World has been unleashed. With Colin Trevorrow now at the helm, taking over from Steven Spielberg (wait, there was another guy?), in only his second full length directorial feature following his 2011 film Safety Not Guaranteed,  he has brought this franchise wholly back on course after the big disappointment that was Jurassic Park III (oh that’s right…). With the disappointment of that hanging over it, the franchise that was ironically at risk of becoming a fossil after  fourteen years in the wilderness, this is if you do count the aforementioned lacklustre third showing, (to which it is possible many do not) has come out roaring and proves that there is still much life left in this franchise.

Having been over a decade, almost all of the former cast members have now become fossilised, and in their places, enter Chris Pratt as gruff raptor trainer Owen Grady who is sought after by the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to ensure that the park’s big, bad and risky science project, the Indominous Rex is suitable for public viewing before the exhibit is unveiled. It is at this point, that everything starts going wrong (as you might expect) with some dinosaur made havoc being unleashed on the Jurassic world visitors as well as our protagonists, who include Claire’s two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are desperately trying to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying Indominous.

jurassic world
Stay, my pretties…

As previously mentioned, this new adventure is a much needed return to form for the franchise. Following from his turn in the box office stomping, smash ride Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt shows his action chops once again and provides a solid performance as the film’s primary protagonist. Claire, the aunt of the two boys caught up in the mayhem, initially shuns her two nephews in favour of keeping an eye on the proceedings in the park, and seeks to maintain her professional, businesswoman persona even in the face of the carnage. Yet when caught in the thick of it, she drops this and shows family compassion and courage particularly when her nephews are in some serious trouble. The nephews themselves at times can be exceedingly frustrating and annoying, particularly the younger one. There are some story lines with them that are left at loose ends, which is a bit frustrating. Furthermore the dialogue at times feels very wooden, but it’s not what we came here for, we came for some dinosaur carnage, and boy do we get it.

With action and chase sequences that pack a punch and are without doubt an homage to the 1993 classic, Trevorrow does manage to reinvigorate the action. With a premise that is similar to the previous films, it could very easily go wrong, but it feels new and fresh, even though we have been getting monster filled carnage in movies during this franchise’s absence such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. It at this point could very easily become stale, however it is not. Trevorrow through his action scenes clearly respects the first film, and the game-changer for cinema that it was. Yet there is enough on show here to recapture the imagination, wonder and joy that so many people experienced when the first movie came out, especially with the final throw down which is nothing short of terrific. The CGI remains top notch, with some solid directing and a top score by Michael Giacchino, there is a lot of fun to be had. There was very little chance of bettering Spielberg’s 1993 belter, but Trevorrow and gang gave a right good go of it, and for that, credit where credit is due. The park opened, and it opened in style.

With a script that does feel a bit wooden, and at times stale, the movie is weighed down somewhat, but with cool throwbacks to the 1993 classic, and some exhilarating action sequences, there is plenty more life in this franchise. 

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